Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: Firefly Island by Lisa Wingate

The latest novel by Lisa Wingate, “Firefly Island” is a very fun and funny read.

I find the first lines of a book captivating and the opening of this novel is one of my favorites. The book begins, “There are times when life is a cursor on a blank page, blinking in a rhythm a bit like an electronic heartbeat, tapping out a question in three little words. What. Comes. Next.

There are a great number of characters in this book – Mallory, Daniel, Nick. Pecos. Jack & Mason West. Al and Keren. The Gymies. Pop Dorsey. Birdie. The Binding Thru Book Girls. Mallory’s sisters. Reverend Hay. Mama B. The Docksiders. Usually a story with so many characters would have my head spinning but Wingate does such an amazing job with each character that it is easy to believe even your life could somehow fit amongst the many residents of Moses Lake, Texas.

The story starts with an unexpected romance and accelerates into one adventure after another. It is a journey about marriage & motherhood . In the newness of these roles, Wingate explores the different between the negativity of “losing oneself” with the positive aspect of discovering the one God created each of us to be.

I was impressed by the respect shown by the author towards the families of Chinquapin Peaks, the downtrodden of the community. And inspired by those determined to make a difference,  such as Reverand Hay observed, “If we never give people a chance, we never know what they’re capable of.”  I could relate to the question repeated a couple of times, by different characters in the story, “Do you ever have the feeling that God’s using you right where you are?”

Again, so many details woven into the story, which could have become confusing but instead created a perfect balance of entertainment and intrigue. Politics & pork-barreling.  Foster care & parenting. The disappearance of a mother & child. Infertility and an unexpected pregnancy. Respect [or lack thereof] between employees and  employers. Running from a past. Running towards an uncertain future. Rodents and critters. Washington, DC and the middle of Texas.

Definitely would recommend this book.

NOTE: I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Bethany House publishers in exchange for this review. Opinions expressed are my own.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oh, How I Love Fish Tacos!

Lately I have totally been into fish tacos, mostly ordering them in restaurants, because the preparation seemed daunting. But then I found this recipe. So amazingly delicious, AND a big hit with my hubby, so its been added to my dinner options repretoire.

Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Guacamole and Cabbage Slaw

2 avocados (halved, pitted and peeled)
1/4 cup sour cream (or greek yogurt)
1 small jalapeno (seeded and thinly sliced)
2 Tbsp. red onion (minced)
2 Tbsp. cilantro (chopped)
5 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
4 cups napa cabbage (shredded)
10 flour tortillas (warmed)
2 medium tomatoes (thinly sliced)
2 pounds thick red snapper fillets with skin (cut crosswise into 2-inch strips)

NOTE: Clearly not as fresh or as healthy, I confess to simply using [Seapak] Popcorn Fish which I found recently on clearance at the grocery store. 

In a medium bowl, mash the avocados, sour cream, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro and 3 Tbsp. of lime juice. Season with salt & pepper. Chill. 

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with 2Tbsp of vegetable oil and remaining 2 Tbsp. lime juice. Season with salt & pepper. Chill. 

If you're not using the Popcorn Fish shortcut, brush the fish with oil and season with salt & pepper. Grill over moderately high head until lightly charred and cooked through, about 10-minutes. Transfer fish to a platter and pull off the skin.

To assemble each taco, spread a dollop of guacamole on a tortilla. Top with a piece of fish, a few tomato slices and a large spoonful of cabbage slaw. Serve with hot sauce and lime wedges.

And for the family-friendly version of assembly? Place everything in the center of the table & help yourself! :) 

Friday, March 8, 2013

An Adoption Update: To The Previous Update

This post is written with other 'adoptive family friends' in mind as there has been lots of online chatter [some rumors, some possible truth] about agency licenses, Ethiopian adoptions, program openings/closings, etc.

Our placement agency's license was re-instated by the Ethiopian government. That's good news! Unfortunately, it does not really change things. Here is an excerpt from an email recv'd earlier today from our agency, "...continued overarching concerns around long-term predictability, consistency and sustainability...we have discontinued intakes and referrals [indefinitely] ...our management team continues to determine the future direction of the Ethiopia program."

NOTE: The agency indicated above, is not Evangelical Child and Family Agency (ECFA) which many of you know we've become involved with during the past years. In international adoption, homestudy paperwork, education and post-placement counseling is completed by an agency in the state which you live; for us, that agency is ECFA. Adoptive families then select a placement agency with an open program in the country of choice. The current issues we're experiencing are with our placement agency, the name of which I am choosing not to disclose here. There's been some confusion; so wanted to clarify.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An Adoption Update

It has been some time since I have written a progress report on our Ethiopian adoption. Mostly because the past 3+ years have been filled with a "still waiting" status. And, while that "still waiting" status continues, there have been some changes. Not good changes. Kind of heart-breaking ones. 

Based on our family's status on the waiting list and rate of referrals coming in from the ET orphanages, we were advised there was a good chance we'd receive a referral before the end of 2012. Obviously, the referral never occured or you would have heard about it :)

Ethiopia issues licenses to adoption agencies for a 3-year period of time. During the past weeks, we have learned our agency's license, which expired in November 2012, has not been renewed by the Ethiopian government nor is there any indication when or if a new license will be granted. No license = No adoptions.

Lots of emotions in my heart & questions swirling about my mind. I find myself in "processing mode" struggling to make sense of the details. I am sad. I am angry. I am scared. Unmotivated. Unfocused. There are moments I wonder how I can find a way thru the disappointment. This is not what we hoped for. 

You see, I know that God loves me. I know that God is good. I know that He has a plan for me, for our family. I know that He has already blessed me with a little boy whom I love to pieces. And yet in the middle of all this "knowing" is the reality of the hurt and the faith-struggle it presents. Amidst everything, I rest on the promise found in one of my life-verses, "For I [the Lord, your God] will hold your right hand, saying unto you, "Fear not; I will help you..."  

NOTE: I have no intent with the writing of this post to create a "false alarm" for others who may be adopting thru Ethiopia with another agency. While this issue impacts agencies attempting to renew their license at this time, it is unknown how/if this will impact other adoptive parents. 

Too Much Chocolate Cake

Now personally, the title of this post which is also the title of the recipe I will share, seems to be illogical to me. Is there such a thing as 'too much chocolate'? Nope. Not in my book.

Anyways, I stumbled across this recipe (www.allrecipes.com) when wanting to make a special celebration dessert for the Messners girls while they were at our house awaiting the arrival of their little sister. And then decided to use it to make Xander's birthday cupcakes, too. It is quite simple but definitely adds a little 'pizazz' to a regular box of cake mix.

1 (18.25 ounce) package of devil's food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a greased 12-cup bundt pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the top is springy touch. NOTE: I obviously made this recipe into cupcakes; baked for about 18-20 minutes. Yummy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Celebrating Birthday #5!

Even though his birthday is not actually on the calendar (February 29th), our little man is officially 5 years old! Although the days sometimes go slowly, the last four years have flown by. This past weekend, we had a birthday party with several preschool friends, a church friend, an uncle, an aunt, two cousins & a set of grandparents :)
Having purchased a gift certificate at a recent benefit auction & because it is typically the location of our Tuesday night mommy/son dates, we had a Chick-filA themed party. I was pleased how things came together; the X-man, not so much.
Since he rose with the sun, the fact he had to wait until early afternoon for guests to arrive, was excruciating. [Here he waits in a chair by our front door]. 
My homemade cupcake toppers were dismissed based on the prefeace that cupcakes are NOT birthday cupcakes unless they have characters on them. 
["Grandma, mine only had writing on them!"]
The chocolate milk, purchased specifically at his request, was deemed 'gross!'. [In his defense, the little ones seemed to be in agreement on this. I have yet to sample.]
He WAS impressed with receiving some really fun gifts and playing at a local gynamisum with all his little friends (and their parents)!
Happy birthday, buddy!
Here is to another sweet year together!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Visiting Up North

We headed north earlier this week to spend some time with Jill [SIL] and niece/nephew, Karissa (6) and Lavell (3); Shannon was out-of-the-country [missed you!] The kids had a blast being together. Jill & I even squeezed in some 'girl time' on Monday evening which was totally fun. 

The X-man and I returned in Tuesday's flurry of snow, bringing a gift of cheese curds to Blake who held down the homefront while we were gone :) The drive was completely do-able thanks to The American Girl: Addy Stories which we checked out from the library. Alexander seems to really enjoy learning about history -- he is a BIG fan of Abraham Lincoln -- although he reminded me often while listening, "Mom, this happened a long time ago, you know, the slaves. Its not like that now."  

Here are a few photos of our time together in a state that has LOTS more snow that here.